Feeding 3-5 year olds can be a challenge as they transition from baby to big kid and their eating habits change. The foods 3-5 year olds eat should provide them with the nutrients they need to grow, build strong bones and teeth, and provide energy for all the activities they do. Knowing what foods 3-5 year olds should eat can help parents and caregivers make sure they are getting the nutrients they need.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a 3-5 year old’s diet. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables every day will provide them with the vitamins, minerals, and fiber they need. At least half of a 3-5 year old’s plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. They should eat a variety of colors and types of fruits and vegetables to get all the benefits. Fresh, frozen, canned, and dried fruits and vegetables count, as well as 100% juice. It’s important to limit juice to 4-6 ounces per day for 3-5 year olds.
Grains are a great source of energy for 3-5 year olds. They should try to eat at least half of their grains as whole grains like whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and oats. Refined grains, like white bread and white rice, are also nutritious and should make up the rest of their grain intake.
Protein is an important part of the 3-5 year old’s diet. Protein helps build and maintain muscle, and it’s also important for growth. 3-5 year olds should try to eat lean protein like chicken, fish, beans, and eggs. They should also try to limit processed meats like hot dogs and lunchmeat.
Dairy products are a great source of calcium, which helps build strong bones and teeth. 3-5 year olds should get 2-3 servings of dairy each day. Milk, yogurt, and cheese are all good sources of calcium, and they can also provide protein. 3-5 year olds should try to get their dairy from low-fat or non-fat sources.
Fats are an important part of a 3-5 year old’s diet. They provide essential fatty acids, which are important for growth and development. Fats also help the body absorb certain vitamins. Healthy fats include olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds, and avocado. 3-5 year olds should limit foods that are high in saturated and trans fats like fried foods, processed snacks, and fast food.
Water is the best drink for 3-5 year olds. Sugary drinks like soda, juice drinks, and sports drinks can be high in calories and should be limited. 3-5 year olds should also limit their caffeine intake.
Snacks are a great way to provide extra nutrition to 3-5 year olds. Some healthy snack ideas include fruit, vegetables, yogurt, nuts and seeds, and whole grain crackers. 3-5 year olds should limit snacks that are high in sugar, fat, and calories like candy, cookies, chips, and ice cream.
Meal Time Tips
Meal times can be a tricky time for 3-5 year olds. Here are some tips to make meal times easier and healthier:
- Serve meals and snacks at regular times.
- Encourage your child to try new foods.
- Let your child help with meal planning and preparation.
- Involve your child in setting the table.
- Let your child decide how much to eat.
- Be a good role model by eating healthy foods.
- Make meals fun by creating food art or playing food games.
- Avoid using food as a reward or punishment.
- Avoid distractions like TV or other screens during meal times.
Feeding 3-5 year olds can be a challenge, but knowing what foods they should eat can help parents and caregivers make sure they are getting all the nutrients they need. Fruits and vegetables, grains, protein, dairy, and fats should all be part of a 3-5 year old’s diet. Water should be the main drink, and healthy snacks can provide extra nutrition. Meal time tips can also make meal time easier and help keep kids on track with healthy eating.